Everyone views the world through rose colored glasses. We all come from varied backgrounds and are equally unique. These differences should be celebrated and used to create a better understanding of the world we live in. Beyond the worthy goal of inclusion, these differences help all of us see things in a new way. Behold the power of perception!
When most of us see a cat we typically think, cute cuddly, funny, or simply not dangerous (well… maybe not all of us). However, from the mouse’s perspective, when he sees a cat, he sees and smells danger. Trust me, if you were the mouse’s size you would too.
In our last post, we discussed the concept of Active Listening and its importance in our daily lives. A large part of being an active listener is translating the message into a language that you understand. That translation process inevitably includes our personal perceptions.
Whenever we encounter new information, we try and make sense of the information using our experiences. Because of this application of our experiences in interpreting our world, we can run into the dangerous trap of our perceptions leading us down the path of misunderstanding and confusion.
A common example of perceptions is driving. Most drivers tend to get slightly upset (okay, angry) at other drivers. They won’t get out of the middle lane, they cut us off, they don’t use their blinker, they drive too fast, they drive too slow, etc. This anger often causes us to feel that the other drivers are out to get us, that their behaviors and actions are a personal attack of some kind. The reality is that more often than not, the other driver simply made a mistake and was in no way out to get you.
These concepts are not new to us, but those of us who aspire to be better communicators have to start cleaning our own house (i.e., yourself). Take inventory about how you are perceiving the world. Do you feel that you’re not getting enough information? Is the world out to get you? Does everything you touch turn to gold?
In order to better understand those we interact with, we must first understand how we translate the world. Once you understand, then you can push past those dangerous perceptions and try and see the world from others viewpoints and other perspectives.
Most of us have heard that we must be “active listeners” and refrain from being passive listeners. Passive listening in and of itself is not bad, in that passive listening is simply the physical act of hearing. There are many occasions in which we passively listen, such as listening to music, television, podcasts, conferences or webinars, etc. The danger of passive listening is that we can slip into a trance or get distracted to the point where we are not really listening to what is going on and being said.
An active listener on the other hand is seeking to actively engage in the message. The active listener doesn’t necessarily have to engage with the speaker, but they must at least engage their mind and dichotomize the message, reword the message in their own words, formulate questions, and build on the information to create their own understanding.
Imagine a mouse creeping across the field and then all of a sudden, it stops, sticks its head in the air, its nose is twitching and ears are wiggling. You can feel it straining to hear or smell something. On the other side of the field you see a cat trying everything it can to stalk the mouse. At this point, the mouse is actively listening for a predator. What do you call a passively listening mouse? Dinner.
Think back to those individuals that
you connected well at networking events and other professional get-togethers.
Did you connect with them because they talked a lot, or was it because they
seemed genuinely interested in hearing what you
had to say? Chances are it was the latter.
In today’s modern information age, the large amounts of data we are inundated with every day affects our ability to truly actively listen. Whether our cell phones distract us, emails or the latest cat and mouse video, we must not let this information overload our minds or bleed into our personal interactions. Challenge yourselves to take a break from electronics for at least 30 minutes (an hour would be better) every day. Take that time to read a book, mediate, or have a real conversation with a colleague.
Most of us have heard that we must be “active listeners” and refrain from being passive listeners. Passive listening in and of itself isn’t bad, in that passive listening is simply listening or to put it another way, hearing. There are many occasions in which we passively listen, such as background music, television in the background, some conferences or webinars, etc. The danger of passive listening is that we can slip into a trance or get distracted to the point where we are not really listening to what is going on and being said. (more…)